Unfolding like a good, old-fashioned pulp mystery novel, La Scomparsa Di Pato (The Vanishing of Pato) makes its Toronto debut at the Italian Contemporary Film Festival and is sure to delight audiences with its gallows humour and precisely plotted story.
Based on the 2000 novel by Andrea Camilleri, the story follows the investigation of the disappearance of a banker named Antonio Pato (Neri MarcorÃ©) who goes missing during a traditional Good Friday re-enactment of the Passion of Christ. Local Inspector Ernesto Bellavia (Maurizio Casagrande) is forced to team up with a Carabiniere named Marshal Guimmero (Nino Frassica) to find Pato who is a well-regarded member of the community and has highly-placed connections that make it all the more important that the two squabbling investigators successfully join forces to solve the mystery as soon as possible — if only to get the town’s rather unruly residents off their backs.
Director Rocco Mortelliti maintains a steady comic pacing that enhances the unravelling mystery, with the centrepiece being the oftentimes hilarious antagonism between Bellavia and Guimmero. It’s a truly fresh, new incarnation of the usual buddy cop/grudging bromance formula that elicits laughs, but is also meant to make an easy-to-swallow comment on the preposterous Italian judicial system and the ridiculousness of the bureaucracy that surrounds it. The script is constantly poking fun at the way its home country operates yet although the film is rife with political commentary, it never feels heavy-handed or preachy.
Beyond the laughs, the film’s central mystery boasts airtight plotting and it’s never entirely evident how the pieces of the puzzle are meant to fall into place. It’s a fun ride that falters slightly in the final act when the inevitable explanation of who did what and why gets a bit overly detailed (you know, kind of like that whole “if it weren’t for you darn kids” scene at the end of every episode of Scooby Doo), I guess for the slow to catch on members of the audience. Still, it’s hard to fault such a smart and witty film for one tiny misstep ““ La Scomparsa Di Pato is truly a hidden gem worth seeking out.
La Scomparsa Di Pato (The Vanishing of Pato) screens as part of the Italian Contemporary Film Festival on June 29, 2012 and June 30, 2012. Check the festival website for details and tickets.